-Letters to the Editors & Op/Eds:
-Letters to the Editors & Op/Eds:
Having watched Antiochians over the past fifty years, it has been my experience that while Antioch has gotten smaller–as a direct and indirect result of the ’73 Strike, the 25% cuts in faculty the year after (financial desperation has never worked as a recruiting tool), lingering on the edge of bankruptcy and oblivion, presidents who have not been fond of the institution and have tried to change it into something more marketable and mainstream, shrinking resources and departments (we all know the story)–the students who have come out of Antioch over the years (and those now at NonStop) continue to be, more or less, of the same cloth. Folks, this is remarkable. And the reason for this is the faculty, staff and the smart students who saw through the absence of trappings to something genuine that would engage them.
To be an effective teacher at Antioch demands a dedication and malleability on the part of teachers most institutions don’t require.
I am in the midst of a long essay on Antioch. I have interviewed 20 people, each person for about two hours: from students in the 1930s to current students at NonStop, as well as a number of faculty and two presidents. I think this bit of transcript from my interview with English Professor Jean Gregorek more than makes my point.
JEAN: I was teaching 19th Century British Lit. 20th Century British Lit. Post-Colonial Literature. Literary Theory. Contemporary Drama. African Literature and Caribbean Literature. And Detective Fiction.
ME: Boy, that’s a lot.
JEAN: (Laughs.) In my line of work it’s unheard of. I’m a complete anomaly. No one tries to cover that much…A normal English Department at a small school is, you know, six or seven people.
(Actually, after I interviewed Jean, I checked both Oberlin and Kenyon’s Websites: they both have between 15 and twenty instructors in their English departments. Antioch in its last year had two and a half.)
The point I am trying to make is this: these teachers are not only damn good in their fields, they take on an extraordinary amount of extra work because of their devotion to the ideals of Antioch and because they get a charge out of the students (OK, not all of the students: but even the difficult ones, they are there for them). Teachers for Antioch are as self-selecting as the students. And if outside proof were needed to make this point clear, let me direct you to the 2000 and 2001 National Survey of Student Engagement-sponsored by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and the Pew Forum on Undergraduate Learning.
Antioch College ranked number one among 470 institutions in “Level of Academic Challenge” and “Enriching Educational Experiences” and in the top 10% in “Active and Collaborative Learning,” “Student Interactions with Faculty Members,” and “Supportive Campus Environment.” And, according to the Franklin and Marshall study of Baccalaureate Origins of Doctorate Recipients, Antioch College was among the top twenty undergraduate institutions whose graduates went on to earn Ph.D.s.
Loren Pope, in his 1996 addition of Colleges that Change Lives, says of Antioch College: “Antioch is in a class by itself. There is no college or university in the country that makes a more profound difference in a young person’s life, or that creates more effective adults. None of the Ivies, big or little can match Antioch’s ability to produce outstanding thinkers and doers…For decades this yeast of American higher education…has produced higher percentages of future scientists and scholars than any Ivy League university except Princeton.”
Between 1985 and 1990, according to Ph.D. data supplied by the National Science Foundation, in overall Ph.D. output (in all fields) relative to total undergraduate enrollment, Antioch College outranked M.I.T., Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Stanford, Cornell, U. California-Berkeley…and the list goes on.
It is past time we stopped this self-flagellation. The problems of Antioch are not and were not the quality of its faculty. The NonStop faculty and staff is the DNA of Antioch College. And without that DNA what you have is little more than an instruction manual.
Let us not forget the passion and dedication from which NonStop was born. Let us remember were it not for the threat of a lawsuit by the University, Nonstop would have been called what it has always been in reality: Antioch College in Exile. And let us remember the Alumni Reunion of ’07 and how for so many of us it was the assault on the faculty that galvanized us into action. Or as Emeritus Dance Professor Dimi Reber articulated our collective concern in her eloquent letter on behalf of the faculty: “I am writing because current faculty are facing possible layoffs and the elimination of tenure and feel unprotected…Our dignity as faculty is at stake, the definition of what Antioch is and has been is hanging in the balance.”
At this crucial time of transition we must support what is the mind, heart and soul of Antioch College–the staff and faculty of The NonStop Stop Liberal Arts Institute. More than support them, we must celebrate them!
Make your donation now to NonStop to guarantee the future of a vibrant and prosperous Antioch College! (secure.imodules.com/s/1050/qs1_index.aspx?sid=1050&gid=1&pgid=310&cid=809)
I recently had a conversation with Micah Canal, 2008 graduate of Antioch College, who came back to Yellow Springs in January to join the effort to support Nonstop and for the recreation of the College. He is currently working for the College Revival Fund.
Micah: I was born on the side of a mountain in southern Oregon, (where we lived) without electricity. My parents went back to the land in the early 70’s. They were hippies, sort of, but I am also part redneck because of growing up in rural southern Oregon. I have always walked that line of someone who embraces my redneck-dom and also someone who was raised by college graduates, and has had a fairly privileged life. I am one of the people who loved high school, rare among the Antioch diaspora.
I was supposed to come to Antioch in 2004, and I deferred until 2005 because I was in love, and I needed to stay on the West Coast. We (my classmates and I) were informed when we got here that something called the Renewal Commission had changed the college that we thought we would be attending. To this day I am still unclear as to why… there was no information that was conveyed to us or our parents that we were going to be a part of a new, untested learning model. That was a real shock.
Fela Pierre-Louis and Olivia Leire, and I organized the first year class in the first two weeks into something called the First Year Liason Committee. It was my first experience with organizing at Antioch, and what an interesting, difficult, troubling, infighting experience it can be. We became Antiochians … for three years, and some of us graduated, and most of us didn’t. There were sixty-seven people who entered with me, and of those less than twenty graduated. I think of us as the lost class, because we were the first under the learning communities, and some of us were the last ones out, and some of us are still here. That is my brief history about Antioch.
My major in one hundred words was Social Entrepreneurship and Economic Development. I studied economics and international relations. My focus was on change-making, trying to do it from the grass roots and also within institutions. All of my professional work has been in the non-profit sector, and I imagine that is where I will stay. That will be my life’s work: social entrepreneurship, building and contributing to organizations that do good works.
M: That is a very complex question, especially because things have changed so much here. I came back, fundamentally, because I knew that there was unfinished business in Yellow Springs. I knew that my professors and my student comrades and so many of my Antiochian family were struggling to reach a goal that from afar, from 2500 miles away, seemed a lot more clear than it does here in Yellow Springs. I came back because I believe in a place like Antioch, a place that instills the values and ideas, and a place that is built on the motto that we come back to over and over again, ( “Be Ashamed”).
M: I do communications work. I work on the web page and help to craft the news and the messaging that goes out to alumni. I work on the e-newsletter and the print newsletter. I try to help chapters organize and publicize their events. Being the youngest person in the office, you get stuck with helping out with people’s computers, and I usually make coffee. My job is largely computer based.
There are a lot of different groups here and in the meta-Antiochian community who are working for different things. There is the Board Pro Tem, and the Alumni Board. The Alumni Board created Nonstop – or has been an important agent in the legal and financial creation of Nonstop. And there is the College Revival Fund. Within those organizations, there are different factions. There are people of different ages, different graduating classes, and they have different opinions. One thing about Antiochians is…it is our charming little downfall …that we all believe that we are the torch bearers. We all have the notion that our version is the correct version, and we have to save Antioch from all of the other incorrect understandings of what that word and this land means. I think that it is a huge part of the difficulty we are faced with right now. We have different notions about who carries the torch. Is it the alums? Is it Nonstop? Within Nonstop, is it carried by the students or the faculty? Is the torch carried by the land here? Once the Board Pro Tem gets it back–is that Antioch?
For someone who graduated in the 50’s, they are not going to recognize Nonstop as Antioch. We (the recent generation of Antiochians) believe and have strong connections to professors, a culture, and a staff that remain to some extent over at Millworks. The people who have the money it is going to take to save, to make this thing tenable for the next 155 years, don’t. This – this Olive Kettering Library, the Main Building, this is how they (donors) can relate, at least most of them anyway. And that is not an answer folks want to hear.
Are we working on the same effort? I am not convinced we are. I am not convinced we aren’t. We are all communicating with other Antiochians out there, and we pass on our prejudices and our gripes about stuff that is happening here. I think that that process hurts our fund raising effort, it hurts our PR effort with the rest of the world. It hurts our image. It doesn’t build the forward momentum that we will need as an institution and a community to revitalize Antioch. Every one is working hard for their vision. It doesn’t matter what institution you are working for, whether it is Nonstop, or CRF, or BPT or the Alumni Board. In reality, I think our visions have more in common with each other than are different. We are focusing a lot on the differences.
We have an economy that is sinking. The situation in the outside world and here in the Antiochian community is like a perfect storm. We should be seeking whatever breaks we can get. We should be seeking whatever shelter and unity we can find, because it is hard enough, a big enough of a pipe dream to think of starting a college in this economic time.
I am optimistic. Antiochians are not good at faith. I believe that despite all of this, every one that I have talked to has good intentions. I have a lot of faith in Community Government. I have tremendous faith in Chelsea. She carries a lot of respect from all the different groups. With that respect she serves to unify us. The charisma of a capable leader is really important, and she holds a lot of that. The reason that she does is that she is very responsible about the way that she represents the ideas and the will of the community. She is a tremendously capable person.
I am optimistic about the innocence and passion of many of the young people involved. I think we should be listening to them more. Obviously, I am a young person, and take that how you may. I think there are a lot of very good ideas. There are ways to move forward in the hearts and minds of the most recent graduates. We should be reaching out to them. We may not have the deep pockets, but we have the energy, the wherewithal, and the ideas that are going to make any effort to recreate a college successful.
Here is a letter to the Record:
Not being much of a Charles Dickens fan, I would say these are neither the best of times nor the worst of times, but we may soon find ourselves close to one extreme or the other with the approaching deadline for transferring Antioch College to the Board Pro Tem.
That does make these the most stressful of times for many of us in Nonstop, the College Revival Fund and the Alumni Board.
Perhaps it’s thus an apt time to turn to some fragments from the poem “If” by another Brit who is not one of my favorites, Rudyard Kipling and conclude with a bit of paraphrase to fit our circumstances:
“If you can keep your head when all about you
“Are losing theirs …
“If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
“Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies…
“If you can dream — and not make dreams your master;
“If you can think — and not make thoughts your aim…
“Yours is the legacy and all that’s in it,
“And — which is more — you’ll be an Antiochian.”
Knowingly or not, that old colonial racist was explicating a principle attributed to the pre-Christian sage Hillel (cited here in a slightly interpretive translation) in the Talmud:
“Where there are no human beings, strive to be a human being.”
Collegiality, creativity and fortitude, especially now, are among our most treasured assets.
Where there are no Antiochians, strive to be an Antiochian.
— Tim Klass, Alumni Board Nominating Committee chair, winter 1968 Record editor, class of 1971
I want to take this opportunity to thank you profusely for my experience of these past six months. My one year at Antioch changed my life, expanded my horizons, deepened my understanding of the world we live in, and facilitated my growth as a human being. My experience at Nonstop has done exponentially more.
Since beginning my course of studies at Nonstop, I have sat on ComCil and the Diversity Committee. I have attended meetings of the Yellow Springs Human Relations Committee and the YS youth council. I have helped draft and implement policies and community agreements, painted walls, worked sound systems and microphones, attended numerous presentations and even participated in a few myself, and I have participated in countless powerful, emotional community discussion. I’ve also sat in classes that absolutely blew my mind, had innumerable meaningful discussions with unbelievably intelligent people both in and out of class, and worked myself to death to complete assignments.
And I’ve had the great pleasure and great honor to socialize with some of the most intelligent, most caring, dedicated, and inspiring people on the face of the planet.
In some ways, I think the uncertainty we find ourselves with now is the greatest we have ever faced. The definitive agreements are likely, but not certain, and if they are implemented, we’ve no guarantee that the living spirit of Antioch College-the heart, mind, energy and values which make us unique among institutions of higher education-no guarantee that these strengths will be carried over to the new Antioch College in the form of the current Nonstop Community.
Personally, I’m an incurable optimist. I’ll go on assuming that Antioch College will continue in spirit as well as name after this June until proven wrong beyond the last shadow of a doubt.
But I tell you this: even if the very worst should happen; even if all that is left of Antioch College after this June is a name and a memory: it was worth it. Worth every last sleepless night, interminable meeting, mind numbing-cramming session, and frantic strategy session. Worth every tear, every scream, every exclamation of inarticulable disgust.
I love you all more than words can possibly say.
Thanks. For everything.
in nonstop solidarity,
Antioch College, class of 2011